Investment in Specifics

Including specific places or developing named, fleshed-out characters can encourage emotional investment in protecting those places or creatures.

Evidence suggests that people form emotional attachments to specific places, creatures, or people, not to ideas.


A game designer is trying to encourage players to support rescue efforts for endangered birds. Rather than referring to the birds in general, the designer develops a bird character that is important to the story and is directly affected by climate change, encouraging players to empathize with the situation.


  • Specifics attach emotional meaning to in-game experiences that could otherwise be seen as rote or mechanical. 
  • Specifics encourage players to see threats as real and relevant to themselves, encouraging a connection to nature that is critical for long-term attitudinal change.


  • This tactic is based on strongly supported experiments with wildlife and forest education efforts that have seen significantly increased emotional engagement, and therefore willingness to protect, when named characters or specific real world places were threatened. 
  • This tactic is even more effective with younger audiences or when the specific place/person/creature being threatened is in close proximity to the audience and can be seen as part of their “community.”
  • Investing in specifics does not always have to focus on emotional attachment. Other human needs and wants – like financial security – can be just as impactful. See the full Playbook for an additional example.

From the Environmental Game Design Playbook
– by IGDA Climate SIG